Dec 26, 2009

Which Side Are You On: College Rivalries

It’s not that unusual for one or more parents’ alma maters to appear on a high school student’s college list. Absent the advantages of claiming “legacy” at a particular institution, students are often most familiar with the colleges their parents attended. Somewhere between parental reminiscences, “And this is the frat house where I met your father…” and weekends spent looking bored at alumni functions, a high degree of familiarity is spawned long before the first college application is requested or downloaded.

While this can be a good thing, what is often overlooked is how thoroughly feelings for the principle college rival can be instilled in the minds of those dragged to sporting events or forced to endure annual clashes broadcast on cable sports networks. Conscious or subconscious, rivalry definitely can affect what schools are included on college lists. More often or not, it works toward elimination, although exceptionally rebellious students have been known to aggravate parents by gravitating toward the most hated of college rivals.

So which side are you on? To get an idea of the scope of the rivalry issue, the following is a list of some of the more familiar college rivals in alphabetical order. Like everything else involving rivalries, no one agrees on a ranking:

  • Alabama vs. Auburn (“The Iron Bowl”)
  • Alabama vs. Tennessee
  • Amherst vs. Williams (“The Biggest Little Game in America”)
  • Army vs. Navy (“The Commander in Chief Trophy”)
  • Auburn vs. Georgia (“The Oldest Rivalry in the Deep South”)
  • BYU vs. Utah (“The Holy War”)
  • Cal vs. Stanford (“The Big Game”)
  • Clemson vs. South Carolina (“Battle of the Palmetto State")
  • Duke vs. UNC (“The Battle of Tobacco Road”)
  • Florida vs. Florida State (“The Sunshine Showdown”)
  • Florida vs. Georgia (“The World’s Largest Cocktail Party”)
  • Georgia vs. Georgia Tech (“Clean, Old-fashioned Hate”)
  • Grambling vs. Southern (“The Bayou Classic”)
  • Harvard vs. Yale (“The Game”)
  • Indiana vs. Purdue (“The Old Oaken Bucket”)
  • Kansas vs. Missouri (“The Border War”)
  • Lafayette vs. Lehigh (“The Game”)
  • Michigan vs. Ohio State (“The Game”)
  • Minnesota vs. Wisconsin (“Paul Bunyan’s Axe”)
  • Nebraska vs. Oklahoma
  • Notre Dame vs. USC (“The Jeweled Shillelagh”)
  • Oklahoma vs. Texas (“The Red River Shootout”)
  • Oregon vs. Oregon State (“The Civil War”)
  • Pittsburg vs. West Virginia (“The Backyard Brawl”)
  • Richmond vs. William and Mary ("The South's Oldest Rivalry")
  • Texax vs. Texas A&M (“The Lone Star Showdown”)
  • UCLA vs. USC (“The Victory Bell”)
  • Virginia vs. Virginia Tech (“The Commonwealth Cup”)
  • Washington vs. Washington State (“The Apple Cup”)

Locally, the Universities of Maryland and Virginia enjoy an intense "border" rivalry. VCU and ODU compete in the Colonial Athletic Association for basketball bragging rights, and Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland are among the nation's oldest lacrosse rivals.

Off the field of sports, MIT and Caltech are bitter rivals in pranks and academics. And the most intense chess rivalry in the nation is said to be between UMBC and the University of Texas—Dallas. Who knew?


  1. How about Wabash College vs. DePauw University (the Monon Bell game)--the oldest college rivalry west of the Alleghanies.

  2. The Commander-in-chief's trophy is actually a THREE way rivalry among USMA, USNA and the Air Force Academy.